INTRODUCTION TO THE CIVIL WAR DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON
The Historic Resources Study of the Civil War Defenses of Washington was completed for the Capitol Region of the National Park Service to serve a variety of purposes.
This Historic Resources Study, has, therefore, accomplished the objectives detailed above through extensive research in libraries, archives and manuscript repositories. The narrative history and accompanying historical analysis provides the most comprehensive study of the Civil War Defenses of Washington ever undertaken. Previously little researched subjects such as non-federal owned sites related to Battle of Fort Stevens, logistics, roads, day to day activities within the forts, relationship of minorities, pre-Civil War background, the "Fort Drive," and the post-Civil War history of the fortifications receive appropriate attention. In addition, all research notes, numerous related illustrations and some documents have been transferred to a CD, which was submitted with the study and provides additional information for future requirements.
This historic resources study addresses many subjects. Previously, subjects such as the post-war history of the Defenses of Washington up to the 1960s; the "Fort Drive," the post-Civil War use of the defenses by the U.S. Military, the role of minorities with the Defenses of Washington, day to day activities within the forts, logistics, roads, and the pre-Civil War Defenses of Washington, were only sparsely researched and documented. Other important subjects such as the history of the fort parks receive the attention they deserve.
Much of the information pertaining to the Defenses of Washington in the post-Civil War period up to the 1960s and the "Fort Drive" was unknown before. Some very interesting documents, for that period, were discovered in the National Archives, such as: T.S. Settle, "Legal Authority for Acquisition of Land and Construction of the Fort to Fort Drive, in the District of Columbia," November 14-15, 1940; T.C. Jeffers, "A Brief History of The Fort Drive - Evolution of Its Concept and Function," March 17, 1947; and T.C. Jeffers, "The Fort Drive, A Chronological History of the More Important Actions and Events Relating Thereto," February 7, 1947; all from the National Archives and "Justification: The Fort Drive - Washington, D.C.," from Archives of the District of Columbia. In addition, research uncovered the fact that the "Fort Drive" was suggested much earlier than many thought, at least as early as 1872.
The use, or non-use, of the fortifications by the United States military forces is much better known, now. Surprisingly, the former fortifications of the Defenses of Washington experienced little military use in later years, even during other wars. But, of course, a few, such as forts Whipple, Greble, Reno and Foote witnessed a great deal of military use.
A great deal of new information pertaining to the relationship of minorities to the Defenses of Washington was discovered. The role of U.S. Colored Troops in the construction and defense of the fortifications is better understood. In addition, much new information is available on the work of Freedmen and women in the Defenses of Washington. Finally, the association of African-Americans with the former fortifications after the Civil War is now better known.
Much more information relating to day-to-day construction and maintenance activity within the Defenses of Washington during the Civil War was uncovered. Questions such as who actually worked on the construction and maintenance of the fortifications, who supervised the work, and what was the value of the fortifications now have answers. Now, there are documents and information to backup General John G. Bernard's 1871 report on the Defenses of Washington. One chapter addresses Early's Raid on Washington/Battle of Fort Stevens and the existing, associated, historically significant sites with integrity. Suggestions on how to interpret the event are also provided within the chapter. If only the U. S. Government had acquired Fort Stevens when some individuals and organizations had suggested, we wouldn't have many questions about how to interpret the event.
Other subjects that previously received little attention are the logistics involved in the military defense of Washington, D.C. and the roads used, constructed and maintained by the U.S. Army within and around the Defenses of Washington. These aspects of the defenses still affect the area in some ways today. No doubt, they will also influence the future of the Nation's capital! Although some research and writing had addressed aspects of the pre-Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C., this is the first time that the whole subject has been addressed in one place. The chapter begins with the early defenses of the Washington Navy Yard and Greenleaf Point and the military reservations set aside within the city. The erection of the fort at Jones Point in Alexandra, its demise, and the construction of Fort Warburton, across the Potomac River, is covered next. The defenses of Washington, both permanent and temporary receive attention. Finally, the planning, erection, maintenance and alterations of Fort Washington, the one river defense of the capital, in the period following the War of 1812, takes the history up to the beginning of the Civil War.
While accomplishing the research for this study, the author visited numerous libraries, manuscript repositories and archives. These institutions are listed below:
Manuscript Repositories and Other Reference Collections
In the course of research on the Civil War Defenses of Washington and in writing this historic resources study, the author found and used a variety of materials but, certain items were valuable and deserve recognition. The numerous articles and books written by Benjamin Franklin Cooling provided valuable assistance. John G. Barnard, the Chief Engineer of the Defenses of Washington for most of the Civil War wrote a report for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, published in 1871, that is a required read for anyone interested in the subject. The various National Park Service historic structure studies, interpretive prospectus, cultural landscape inventory, and archaeological research studies were of immeasurable use in this study. Finally, various unpublished masters theses and doctoral dissertations filled in information on subjects and periods otherwise undocumented.
Besides the sources mentioned above, the author discovered many basically new sources, both primary and secondary and published and unpublished, in the various research institutions he visited. This study's bibliography, endnotes and appendices should serve as a treasure trove for those interested in the history of the Defenses of Washington. In addition, a number of newly published sources have appeared while researching and writing this historic resources study. While researching and writing this study, the author received valuable guidance and assistance from a variety of individuals including Gary Scott, Regional Historian, Capital Region, National Park Service; Steven R. Potter, Regional Archaeologist, Capital Region, National Park Service; Michael Musick and Mike Pilgrim, Archivists, Military Reference, Archives I, National Archives and Records Administration; William C. Beckner, CEHP Inc.; Benjamin Franklin Cooling, military historian and renowned expert on the Civil War Defenses of Washington; and my wife, Gayle G. Grossman, for enduring this project for so many years.
Last Updated: 29-Oct-2004